Over the last couple months, we have been discussing the implications of Title 24, Part 6 for offices and other commercial buildings. Under the provisions of Part 6, the California Energy Code, new and existing buildings are expected to integrate energy saving technologies to minimize their footprint. In this article we’ll be discussing the new lighting regulations for commercial buildings put forth in Part 6.
For any business looking to develop or improve their properties over the next few decades, new lighting standards and other changes could become a major issue. Make sure you understand the new requirements moving forward before you commit to any big changes or develop big plans for the future.
The Big Changes
In large part, the biggest change under Title 24 regulations moving forward comes from a new expectation that developers build Zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. ZNE buildings, by definition, neutralize or negate their own energy consumption, meaning developers need to utilize extremely energy efficient lighting, heating, etc. (We talked about this last month on our blog. Read it here.)
Furthermore, even buildings which won’t be required to achieve energy neutrality in the near future are expected to adhere to the 2013 and 2016 updates governing light fixtures, control panels, and other tools for minimizing electric waste. Existing buildings may not need to make the changes immediately, but any level of development can trigger the provisions and push a building out of code. That means that whether you’re building fresh, expanding, or renovating an office building, you’re almost certainly going to run into these new lighting standards. The 2016 changes lighten up a few of these triggers, but it’s still easy to provoke a reevaluation of your lighting.
Basic Lighting Standards
First, let’s talk about the minimum lighting standards of Title 24 part 6. The code already required buildings to maintain multilevel lighting controls and sensors, which may, in turn, require additional electrical panels to operate. In other words, you need occupancy-based automatic shutoff controls in more locations throughout your buildings (automatic turn-offs if no one is around). In 2016, this changed slightly to partial-on (not all lights on) occupancy sensors and vacancy sensors in certain spaces. For example, occupants in a conference room or office will need to turn lights on or up manually if they require additional lighting. Since most people won’t bother to do this, it should save a lot of energy.
More buildings are also covered by demand response requirements, meaning your lighting system must be capable of reducing energy usage by 15% in response to a DR signal from energy companies. Similarly, daylight harvesting is now mandatory for any building with enough exposure and enough installed wattage. Daylight harvesting reduces overhead lighting by dimming or switching off lighting when sufficient sunlight is present.
Lighting Power Density
Beyond the mandatory minimums, you also have the choice of compliance paths to stay within the allowed lighting power standards for commercial buildings. With the Performance Approach, you’ll utilize Energy Commission supplied software; this usually requires a high level of familiarity with Title 24, so you’ll need an experienced professional to help you.
Alternatively, you can take the Prescriptive Approach, and use one of three methods to achieve compliance:
- Complete Building Method: Just as it sounds, may only be used on projects involving entire buildings – so if you rent or manage an entire building, this is the easiest and preferred compliance method
- Area Category Method: Different spaces within the building are allowed different lighting performance allowances. For example, a conference room is different from office lighting
- Tailored Method: A detailed method typically reserved for retail locations with diverse and highly specific lighting needs, including areas such as display lighting
Required by 2030 for Nonresidential Buildings
It’s important to build with an eye towards the evolution of California’s Energy Code. Today, you may not be required to make the changes outlined here. But by 2030, the state expects all commercial buildings to achieve Net Zero Energy usage. Any developer looking to keep costs down needs to think long-term rather than hammering down violations as they arise.
If you’re already familiar with the 2013 lighting standards, you may want to give the 2016 changes a look to make sure you don’t have additional options; many of the requirements for nonresidential buildings have become easier or more versatile in response to new lighting technologies. Taking the opportunity to exceed current standards in favor of likely future updates might make a lot of sense, if you can do so without a significantly higher budget; it’s better than updating the same parts of your building again a few years down the line.